Downer and Coates Hire bring 3D safety tech to WA

Downer, Coates Hire and SITECH WA, have partnered to trial an Australia-first technology that promises to deliver enhanced safety for construction sites.

The three companies are bringing the revolutionary 3D Avoidance Zone System to Australia. The technology is developed by SITECH WA and it prevents machinery entering a restricted area in real-time through the creation of a digital 3D barrier which shuts down connected machinery in the event that any part ‘touches’ the digital barrier.

The technology promises to dramatically reduce accidents and increase safety in construction jobs which are being undertaken within tight areas or nearby critical infrastructure, such as rail lines or mine sites. Downer and Coates Hire will deliver the technology as required to construction sites across the country.

Cormac Brady, General Manager, Western Australia Infrastructure Projects, Downer said the system will be used as further mitigation against potential to ‘foul’ the rail danger zone, over and above to those physical barriers already in place.

“Following a successful trial of the 3D Avoidance Zone System, Downer will be able to apply it to our wider rail and civil projects, thus ensuring safety is at the heart of everything we do,” he said.

The technology will be trialled by Downer and Coates Hire for the first time in Australia, with Western Australia chosen as the ideal location for the trial to take place.

James Naylor, Executive General Manager, West, Coates Hire said construction sites near rail lines and other critical infrastructure are both necessary and fraught with hazards, as excavators increasingly work within tight areas and nearby fast-moving transport.

“Thankfully technology is emerging to ensure these work spaces are safer than ever before, with Western Australia the first Australian state to benefit through this trial,” Naylor said.

“This offering is the next stage in our Internet of Things (IoT) strategy. Once completed, Coates Hire customers will benefit from enhanced safety, productivity and monitoring capabilities.”

How the 3D Zone protects workers and public transport users

With the 3D system, an excavator’s position is provided by SITECH WA’s next generation Trimble Machine Control System; Earthworks.

Using dual Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, the position of the whole of the machine is passed to the Trimble Marine Construction Software (TMC) which compares the machine’s position with the exclusion zone.

The TMC evaluates the current position of the machine against a pre-defined three-dimensional model of the restricted area. If any part of the excavator ‘touches’ the invisible barrier, TMC sends a signal to the machine to stop by disabling all operator inputs, ensuring the operator is no longer able to continue on their current path of movement.

This barrier can be set by site managers, but once the barrier is set there is no need to update the barrier, as the GPS system is always aware of the location of the machine, even if it moves beyond its original location.

“With the SITECH WA’s 3D Avoidance Zone System the restricted area is absolute, and the machine position is always known,” said Brady.

The technology works on a “Traffic Light” system. A Green alert advises workers and managers that the excavator is all clear to proceed operation; an Amber alert advises the worker and site manager that the excavator is approaching the Avoidance Zone, usually 0.5 metres as defined within the TMC software; and a Red alert means the excavator has entered the Avoidance Zone and triggers the machine interlock, which overrides the machine’s operation and halts it immediately.

Developed by SITECH in New Zealand, the technology has been deployed successfully by KiwiRail to ensure the safety of construction workers as well as train passengers and drivers.

George Harris, Sales Manager, SITECH WA said the company leverages technology in all facets of the construction and mining sectors to improve safety, productivity and efficiency.

“Applying this technology to Coates Hire’s equipment helps keep workers and the general public safe along with protecting critical infrastructure is of paramount importance to what we do day in, day out,” he said.

“This technology can be used in so many different applications on many different machine types. We are excited to partner with both Downer and Coates in this project.”

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